WASHINGTON — In the wake of primaries plagued by voters waiting in long lines and other problems, House Democrats are looking into whether key states are well prepared for Election Day in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis led by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina and the Committee on House Administration chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California sent letters Friday to election officials in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin – all key states in the competitive presidential race – requesting information about their plans to recruit more poll workers and protect them, safely open polling sites, and expand mail-in voting options.

During recent primaries, those states were among those plagued by election problems, including a shortage of poll workers and voters waiting hours in line to cast their ballots.

Those problems “raise concerns that some states may not be prepared to ensure every eligible voter can freely and safely cast their ballot in the general election,” Clyburn and Lofgren wrote.

People wait in line to vote in Georgias Primary Election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta. Voters in Georgia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Nevada are holding primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Concerns remain widespread. Just half of registered voters say it will be very or somewhat easy to vote and about the same share – 49% – expects to have difficulties casting a ballot, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday. That is a substantial change since October 2018, shortly before that year’s midterm elections, when 85% of registered voters said it would be easy to vote, the center said.

With less than three months until Election Day, the battle over elections preparedness is expected to only heat up.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly charged, without evidence, that mail-in ballots would lead to massive voter fraud. He has also suggested the possibility of delaying the election over his concerns of expanded mail-in voting, a decision that would require approval from Congress and was immediately dismissed by congressional Republicans and Democrats.

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Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and other members of his party have vowed to make voter protections a priority and push for more access to voting, including absentee ballots. Mailing absentee ballot request forms to all voters has been widely used in states run by Republican and Democratic election officials. 

Meanwhile, congressional lawmakers are still wrestling over a relief measure that could include  funding for states to help prepare for elections.

Voters cast their ballots at the Miami-Dade County West Sunset Fire Rescue Station, during the Florida primary election, Aug. 28, 2018, in Miami.

More: President Trump requests mail-in ballot for upcoming Florida primary, despite rhetoric

Clyburn and Lofgren said with the spread of the virus across the country there are concerns more states may face similar challenges and should map out plans that would provide safe access to the polls for voters and staffers. They said elections officials should follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“No voter should be forced to wait for hours in line or risk their health to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote,’’ the committee chairs wrote. 

The committees requested a staff briefing with election officials by Aug. 21 and a written response by Aug. 28. Among the information requested are how many voters are expected to turnout, the number of absentee ballot requests expected and the number of poll workers needed.

Earlier this week, voting rights activists and civic engagement groups launched a campaign that would among other things urge people, particularly younger ones, to step up to be poll workers.

Contributing: Bart Jansen, Ledyard King, Nicholas Wu

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Democrats probe state’s readiness as coronavirus spreads



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